What's the difference between a dork, a nerd, and geek? (This isn't a riddle with a clever answer, it's a question.) All three words are ones that we hear frequently, and some of us use them frequently. But what's the difference? To some extent, they're the same. We certainly use them in the same way. But they're different too. They're only slightly different, but each of them has their own particular implications.

These are the definitions I found in my dictionary . . .   
dork: n.  a dull, stupid person.
nerd: n. U.S. slang. 1. a person without coordination or grace; a clumsy person. 2. a person who is not hip; square.
geek: n. U.S. Slang.  1. a freak in a carnival troupe whose act consists of eating live animals. 2. any freakish or perverted person; degenerate.

     Don't know about you, but I found those definitions quite unsatisfactory. Slang is obviously not the dictionary's strong point. I've never met anyone who thought that "nerd" means "clumsy," have you? And as for "geek," that may be the original definition; but I'm certainly not accusing my brother of eating live animals when I call him a "geek."
Next, here's some definitions from dictionary.com
dork: Slang . a silly, out-of-touch person who tends to look odd or behave ridiculously around others; a social misfit.
nerd: 1. a stupid, irritating, ineffectual, or unattractive person. 2. an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a non-social hobby or pursuit.
geek: 1. a computer expert or enthusiast (a term of pride as self-reference, but often considered offensive when used by outsiders.) 2. a peculiar or otherwise disagreeable person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual. 3. a carnival performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts, such as biting off the head of a live chicken.

     That's a little better. Although I still can't get rid of the live chicken bit. The word "geek" has disgusting origins, okay people!? I totally agree with definition number one, though: a computer expert or enthusiast. That sounds right to me. But still, dictionary definitions don't necessarily equal real-life definitions.
     Personally, I think that "geek" and "nerd" are extremely similar. However, I think that "geek" is usually applied to someone who is obsessed with computers and technology. Whereas "nerd," in my opinion, is a more loose term. For instance, a nerd could be someone who is always buried in a book, but doesn't know a thing about computers. Then again, a nerd could be completely obsessed with computers. Does that sort of make sense? Go back to dictionary.com definition number two. an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a non-social hobby or pursuit. In my opinion, a nerd could be obsessed with math, books, technology . . . that sort of thing. 
     All in all, I think that both "geek" and "nerd" could be loosely defined as "an intellectual misfit." But as for "dork"? Personally, I see it as a more derogatory term. For me, "dork" has nothing to do with intellectual powers. It's just a term for someone who is socially awkward and annoying. Like a kid who tucks his shirt in his pants, or has really bad hair, or sticks his face too close to people. A dork is just a plain old social misfit. Nothing intellectual or cool about it.

     I think the main thing about all three terms is context. Like that one definition said, "geek" is a term of pride as self-reference, but it's considered an insult when it's used by outsiders. Honestly, these days "geek" and "nerd" both seem to be a new cool. Dork? I'm not sure about that one, but I think there's a few people who find pride in being a dork. I think "dork" could be used as a term of endearment as well.
     Isn't slang weird? I wonder how many people have different perceptions of the words "dork," "nerd," and "geek." What do you think they mean? Are they insults or compliments? For those who don't live in the US, are they terms that other countries use, or is it just US slang?

P.S. Did you know that Dr. Seuss invented the word "nerd"? 
P.P.S. Sorry if this was long and boring.
P.P.P.S. What about candy Nerds? Anyone like them? Me!
P.P.P.P.S. That finger-people picture doesn't have anything to do with nerds, geeks, or dorks. Deal with it. 


  1. Australian's definitions for dork, geek, and nerd are pretty much what you said.

    I think they can be used in a lot of ways. For instance, "Come here you little dork!" can be a term of digust or endearment. Funny the way the language works.

    I never knew Dr. Seuss made up nerd. Isn't that interesting?

  2. Okay, I'm thinking twice before I call anyone a "geek". :) Biting off the head of a live chicken? Can I say gross? Definately not the definition of a geek (in my brain anyway).

    PS your post wasn't long and boring! Actually, I think your writing is really engaging and entertaining. awesome fun to read anyway... :D

  3. Hey Lydia, I love your posts. Have you ever looked at urbandictionary.com? It can be funny, helpful, and really off color at times. Yet, I use it some times when I want to see what people think a word means. WARNING: It can be really inappropriate too!!

  4. i wrote up an awesome comment lats night when my internet turned into a pumkin.
    lets just say i seriously love this post:D

  5. I also wrote a post about dorks a few posts back, snap! I love your take on it. :) And wow those definitions are off, especially the first ones! Great job. :)